Some people who have returned to Australia and undergone quarantine at a hotel have compared the experience to prison. For Natalya Wells, who spent the last year helping detainees in Iraq, the experience was nothing like it.
She returned to Canberra last week after completing a mission in Mosul, Iraq working for the International Committee of the Red Cross in prisons as a detention delegate.
The group primarily works with people in detention as a result of conflict, but once at a prison they do not discriminate with who they help.
As a result Ms Wells worked with detainees in Mosul prisons who were there for a variety of reasons: from committing common crimes or being arrested in armed conflict, most recently between Islamic State and the Iraqi armed forces.
"We would visit the detainees and monitor their treatment and the condition of the detainees," she said."We would interview cases and often be the only ones outside of criminal justice system to speak to them."
She and the team were the only insight into the outside world prisoners had, and the only source of information on their family.
In a country where family members going missing and being detained unexpectedly was common, that link to the outside world was vital.
The committee is bound by confidentiality agreements with the Iraqi government so she can't discuss the specific conditions she witnessed in Iraq.
Her life in Mosul was significantly restricted due to the ongoing security issues in the region, mostly living in confinement. "We were mostly only able to move between where we lived and where we worked," Ms Wells said.
"We were able to go to a supermarket and a nearby street for basics."
Importantly, Ms Wells was able to speak Arabic, an essential requirement for the job as there was limited access to interpreters.
She said the job could be frustrating at times as you can't always see change occurring, and it was difficult to make an impact on a structural level.
"But it was absolutely rewarding," she said.
Ms Wells was still working in Iraq when the global pandemic began. The government put in place curfews and restrictions on people's movements, but the team's work to help detainees continued.
Working with her Iraqi colleagues gave her a fresh perspective on the freedoms coronavirus restrictions took away, teaching her to live one day at a time.
The staff she worked with lived through various stages of upheaval in Iraq: from Saddam Hussein's reign, sectarian violence after 2003, Al-Qaeda, Islamic State, to the current political fragmentation.
"For my colleagues, the curfews put in place were nothing new," she said.
"The lesson I learned from that, when we were all frustrated that our plans for the coming months were curtailed, was to learn from the Iraqis who don't take anything for granted.
"They are not always relying on the plan panning out the way we think."
When her mission ended in April, she began the long journey home to Australia, complicated by a shut down of airports in Iraq. Upon returning to Australia she spent two weeks in isolation in a Sydney hotel.
Her time working with the prisoners and the living arrangements in Iraq put the experience in perspective, spending the time catching up on streaming ABC iview and SBS on demand.
"I think our life in confinement prepared me for the quarantine," she said.
While coronavirus has caused havoc across the globe and restricted most travel, the committee's operations are continuing where they can. Ms Wells still plans on beginning another international mission in June.
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